Build Trust Between A Multi-Generation Workforce

When your employees trust you, they will listen, learn, follow, and grow with you long-term. Building trust between a multi-generation workforce requires intentional focus. There are subjects you should and should not talk about, questions you should and should not ask, and actions you must absolutely take. So how do you know what to do for who?  Well, I know it can seem like the differences between generations are endless, but I think we are more similar than different. Use these three tips to help build trust between your multi-generation team.

Build Trust Between A Multi-Generation Workforce


I worked in the retail, finance, and food service industries for the past 15 years.  The tips I am sharing with you today are practical, specific, and they work. I know because I have experienced these situations on both the leader and the employee side of the equation. Here we go!

Talk Up, Not Down

Think of your organizational chart.  There are subjects you can discuss with the people above you and there are things you should never discuss with the people below you.  One example: employee performance. When it comes to employee performance — talk up, not down. 

Let’s pretend you are the supervisor of a poor-performing front-line employee named Gary.  Do not discuss Gary’s poor performance with Gary’s peers. That conversation should only be had with Gary in private or with your supervisor if absolutely necessary.  Talk up the organizational chart, not down.  If you open up to Gary’s peers in that way, you may feel like you are building a deeper relationship with them.  Instead, you are breaking their level of trust and confidence with you. If you will talk negatively about Gary with them, what is going to keep you from talking negatively about them to someone else, too? They will lose trust, then you will lose their buy-in.

Should you listen to Gary’s peers if they complain about Gary?  Absolutely. Listen only, don’t add to the complaint.

No matter your generation, we all want to feel like we can trust that our boss isn’t talking bad about us to our peers.

Don’t Ask Their Opinion Unless…

As a new young manager, I thought it would be a great idea to ask all of my seasoned employees and coworkers what their opinions were on projects I was working on.  I thought this would provide insight for me, engage them, and help them feel more valued. 

I was surprised one morning when my coworker was frustrated when I asked his opinion on a new project I was working on.  Without hesitation, he said to me that he had been giving me his opinion over and over, but I never take it! 

Regardless of my intent, he didn’t feel more valued, he felt devalued.  He was not more engaged, he was more distant. He didn’t trust that his opinion even mattered to me.  I had to apologize to him.  (Have you made a mistake?  This blog may help.)

You can build trust with people by asking their opinion.  But, don’t ask their opinion unless you will actually consider it.  Don’t ask their opinion unless you are going to explain your final decision.  Don’t ask their opinion unless you realize they understand your intention for asking them.

No matter your generation, we all want our opinion to be valued.


Deliver On Everything

Have you ever had someone promise something, but not deliver?  No matter how big or how small, when people do not deliver on their word, others lose trust in them.  Here is a real-world example.

There was a sales contest in another department of the business.  The employee with the highest sales at the end of 6 weeks wins a $50 Visa gift card.  The employee who won the contest never received the gift card. Even as the years went on after that contest, the employee never forgot that their supervisor didn’t deliver on that gift card promise.  They also spread the word around the office every time new contests were announced. How do you think that affected team morale and motivation in future contests? It was BAD. No one was motivated to push for higher success because they couldn’t trust that their leader would deliver.

At work, if you promise a prize to your employees after a sales contest–deliver.  If you tell your employees they are going to do a 360 review–deliver. If you say you will have a project done by a certain date–deliver.  Leaders build trust by delivering on everything, every time. 

No matter your generation, we all want people to mean what they say.


Is your business struggling with performance issues? Leadership development training can help. Let’s talk


#leadership #emergingleaders #successionplanning #communication #communicationskills


You might also like this: Give Your Ear, Get Employee Loyalty


Alyson Van Hooser
Author: Alyson Van Hooser
Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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